Online Fundraising During The Coronavirus Pandemic (That’s Sensitive AND Effective)

Olivia James
Olivia James

Education at CauseVox

The nonprofit world feels like living in a snow globe these days: every morning you wake up, someone’s shaken your world, and the snow has fallen differently. Things are changing constantly and there’s so much happening that it’s hard to keep up.

In this climate, it feels like asking for money is out of place and deeply uncomfortable. But most nonprofits are also feeling the impacts of coronavirus, with canceled events, lost revenue, and disrupted programming. Now more than ever it’s important to be able to ask your supporters for a donation to keep your organization strong through this crisis.

If you’re feeling both the discomfort of the ask and the impacts of quarantining, this guide will help you understand the best way to fundraise online during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Why Now?

It might seem counterintuitive to make a fundraising push when the world is in crisis, but this is actually an incredibly important time to focus on fundraising efforts. There are a few important things you can highlight to help your supporters understand why you’re fundraising now.

  • Almost every nonprofit is currently losing revenue from canceled events. Not only is this a strong reason for you to continue fundraising, it’s also an important piece of information to communicate to potential donors. Be transparent with your donors: let them know that canceled events are hard on your organization and encourage registrants to donate the cost of their ticket.
  • This time of crisis includes many unexpected expenses. You may be completely overhauling your programming and learning how to deliver it remotely. Perhaps you’re having to invest in employees working from home. Or maybe you’re having to put more into ensuring that spaces are clean and safe. Let your community know what you’re doing and why. It helps them to understand how they’re keeping you afloat and why they need to donate now. You may also be looking for resources to help you understand what to do. CauseVox has a guide that can help you walk through the best practices.
  • If you don’t ask now, you may not be able to ask in a few months. You don’t want to catastrophize or scare your donors, but it is important to let them in on the severity of the situation. If your organization is unable to run its normal programming and bring in revenue, this crisis is major. Don’t let the fear of overwhelming your donors scare you from ensuring the future of your work. Let your donors know that their donation is vital and could allow you to continue your work in the future.
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence’s campaign to offset costs from switching to virtual programming

Who Should You Ask?

It’s clear that now is the right time to be asking donors to support you. But the fact still remains that many donors are also struggling financially right now. How do you know the right people to ask? Unsurprisingly, it’s all about relationships.

Now isn’t the best time to be searching for new donors. Instead, focus on people you have existing relationships with and figure out how you can bring value to those relationships. Identify key supporters in your network and give them some personalized attention: make a one on one call, enlist a board member, or ask top donors to be a part of a seed fund for your fundraiser.

If you’re looking for ways to make those top donors feel special check out these ideas:

  • Host a virtual happy hour with top supporters. Focus on them: ask about what their life is like right now, touch on their values, and make it fun. Then let them know about your current programming and use the opportunity for a soft ask. 
  • Ask your top supporters to be a part of a match or other special fund.
  • Capitalize on the time employees have at home: hand address ask letters and add personalized notes to top donors.
  • Ask them to engage in some peer-to-peer fundraising to help reach new donors. 

Be Confident

You’ve done this before! Fundraising during a pandemic might seem like a new thing, but fundraising is what you do and you are good at it. This is an important time to go back to basics and remember a few facts:

  • Your mission has not become less important because there is a pandemic. The need you fill still exists. Keep that story at the forefront of all your fundraising.
  • A pandemic doesn’t change the way your donors feel about you. Their values have remained the same, and you can still talk about those values. 
  • Everyone’s glued to their screens and looking for ways to help or be involved. You can provide value to your supporters by giving them an avenue to feel helpful, or ways to connect with others.
This is what everyone’s doing right now. Can they do it with you?

Use Your Existing Know-How

Speaking of back to basics, let’s take a minute to review some of our favorite fundraising practices that will help you now more than ever.

  • You don’t need to completely overhaul your usual fundraising efforts. Make a list of all of your fundraising that may be affected over the next few months and consider how you can adjust it. You can keep the same bones, but change the surface.
  • First, make a plan to move that fundraising online.
  • Then, update your messaging to reflect the current climate.
  • Stories are more important than ever: can you tell stories of how you are supporting your community right now? Incorporate those narratives in everything you do.
  • Think about different online avenues: can you host a webinar? What about converting your race to a virtual race? CauseVox has tons of ideas for online fundraising that you can check out.

Get Some Inspiration

If you’re still feeling a little bit overwhelmed it can be easiest if you see what other people have done. Check out these examples of people doing it well.

Game to Grow


Game to Grow has put together a specific fundraiser to help support them during the crisis. They’ve got a great example of showing how they’re continuing services through the pandemic:

“Luckily, during this crisis our game-based social groups can largely be run though the internet via teleconferencing.  There are some hurdles to jump in order to make sure we maintain the same high quality of services. We want each child to have the same opportunity to connect with peers, continue the fellowship of adventure, and receive the life-enriching experience of a professionally facilitated collaborative experience.” 

Plus they’re being transparent about how the funds will be used to continue their work right now. This allows supporters to feel like they’re helping during the crisis.

North Texas Food Bank


North Texas Food Bank’s fundraiser in partnership with Park Place is particularly interesting because it’s a great example of a supporter coming through for an organization in this crisis. Park Place Dealerships is running a fundraiser to support the work the food bank is doing right now.

They use clear language to show how the food bank is serving people in need as part of the pandemic:

“As things are changing day-to-day, NTFB remains committed to their mission. As a second responder for emergencies, they must maintain operations to ensure that food continues to reach members of our community needing assistance.  

While the full scope of this pandemic’s long-term impact is not yet known, there’s already an economic impact from business and school closures, a drop in oil and gas prices, travel restrictions, and the cancellation or suspension of major public events. 

It is because of this unknown, it is more important than ever to provide for our neighbors in need.”

If your organization is directly responding to the pandemic, this kind of language will help your supporters stay up to date on your work. 



If you’re specifically looking for language around canceled events, NTEN has a wonderful example of a fundraiser to cover the costs of their annual conference.

“This week, the difficult decision to cancel #20NTC was made, but it was one that was made that was true to NTEN’s values and centered the community. In the last 24 hours, the NTEN community has shared countless messages of support, as well as offers to generously donate registration fees towards the significant financial hit.

The reality is that NTC is a significant part of NTEN’s annual budget, and there is a substantial amount that is needed to pay for the conference contracts that are owed for not putting on the event. NTEN has done everything to negotiate as much as possible. Unfortunately, insurance does not cover cancellations due to COVID-19.”

Letting your supporters know what you have done to mitigate the damage, then asking them to chip in keeps them feeling informed and involved. Plus it helps them regain confidence that the event will continue in future years.

Move Your Fundraising Online With CauseVox

If you want to get a jump start on moving your fundraising efforts online and using some of these tips, it’s a great time to start with CauseVox.

CauseVox helps you raise more with less effort, making it easy for you to launch a fundraising campaign, online event, or crowdfunding campaign. With simple technology that is easy to understand you can get started with virtual fundraising in no time.

Learn more about how CauseVox can help you launch your virtual fundraising event.

To help support nonprofits during this time, CauseVox has introduced a new Basic Plan Unlimited, which gives you more capabilities for free. Learn more about Basic Plan Unlimited. Sign up today!

Learn more about how CauseVox is helping nonprofits during the coronavirus pandemic.

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